Study: Chemical in Many Household Products Associated With Early Menopause

Perfluorocarbons can be found in cookware, carpets, clothing, and furniture.

ByABC News
March 24, 2011, 12:29 PM

March 25, 2011 -- Chemicals found in everyday products such as non-stick pans, clothing, furniture, carpets and paints have been associated with the early onset of menopause, according to a new study from the West Virginia University School of Medicine.

The study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that women with high levels of perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in the body had lower concentrations of estrogen compared with women with low levels of PFCs.

PFCs are chemicals that are used in many household items, including furniture, cosmetics and food packaging.

"There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear," Sarah Knox, lead author of the study, said in a news release from the university on Wednesday.

Even though the report may not be conclusive, it's still raising eyebrows. Some doctors say they're not surprised that chemicals are altering hormone levels, but they say they need more proof.

"Studies that we've done looking at these chemicals on the U.S. population show that almost everyone has these chemicals in their blood," Dana Boyd Barr, a research professor at the Rollins School of Health at Emory University in Georgia, told ABC News.

PFCs have long been linked to cancers and thyroid disease in animal studies. The type of PFCs found in nonstick frying pans has been known in rare cases at high heat to kill birds and cause flu-like symptoms in people.

Chemical companies maintain their product is safe, but the study raises questions about whether early menopause is a new reason to worry about PFCs in general.

"PFCs are toxins that shouldn't be in our bodies in the first place, but 98 percent of people tested have measurable levels of PFCs in their blood," Knox, an epidemiologist and professor in the university's Department of Community Medicine, added in the release. "If the PFCs are causing early menopause, then those women are at an increased risk for heart issues. If they aren't, there are still toxins accumulating in the body that shouldn't be there. Either way, it's bad news."